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Thursday, 23 October 2014



scale: photo by erin w, from photographs from a white space, 25 October 2012

entering winter, narrowing

scale -- strait is the gate
the light a notch slender
aperture carved out of dark

now coming, overarching


TC said...

Many thanks to erin, esteemed North Ontario poet/artist friend, who has been one of our favourite photographers for a while now.

To see this remarkable photo on black, as I first did, is to see it another way; and to place it in a life history, to discover another dimension again.

scale @ photographs from a white space, 25 October 2012

Hazen said...

I hope the incoming winter (too soon!) will be as beautiful and as calming as this photograph . . . this light notched out of darkness. Thanks, Tom, for introducing us to Erin’s photography/poetry site.

Maureen said...

Marvelous image and a wonderful poem.

erin said...

i'm not sure what to say but that the photograph belongs here more than it belongs anywhere else. and with this poem (your poem!), scale.

(you are too kind, too generous with me, tom.)

it could be deceivingly simple to imagine the measurement to be winter or any one thing in particular, but i can not be fool enough to believe anything you might propose to be simple. instead you give to us in the span of a few words - existence itself.

but i look fear in the eye and stare it down. what might it mean to be small? i see freedom.

so i bring you this from the beloved Human Poems of cesar vallejo, for each time we quake with fear at scale it is perhaps too often our deaths we fear. (now, if it is something else, well then, that is a different discussion and one, perhaps, with no balm but the company of others.)

The Need To Die

It pleases me to inform you, by means of these lines, that death, more than punishment, penalty or limitation imposed on man, is a necessity, the most imperative and irrevocable of all human necessities. Our need to die surpasses our need to be born and to live. We could do without being born but we could not do without dying. Until now no one has said: “I have a need to be born.” However, one frequently does say: “I have a need to die.” On the other hand, to be born is, so it seems, very easy, since no one has ever said that it was very difficult for him and that he put forth a lot of effort to enter this world; whereas dying is more difficult than one thinks. This proves that the need to die is enormous and irresistible, since it is well known that the more difficult it is to satisfy a necessity the larger it looms. One yearns more for that which is less accessible.


Ruben Dario has said that the sorrow of the gods lies in not reaching death. As for men, if, from the moment they are conscious, they could be sure of reaching death, they would be happy forever. But unfortunately, men are never sure of dying: they feel an obscure desire and a yearning to die, but they always doubt that they will die. The sorrow of men, we declare, lies in never being certain of death.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

poem photograph scaled
not too human perfection

but more than enough

TC said...


No, you're right, that's the source of the fear, and it's perhaps a relief the discussion stops there, as the balm of human company seems lately to have its lid screwed on more tightly than ever, in this new time in which we must fear all contact even with one another, if we are to survive -- a tacit instruction in the new fastlane tech society, explicit and the realistic rule of the day right now among the people of West Africa, basic ABC, Avoid Bodily Contact.

But then again, the glass is supposedly always half full, or no more than half flawed (or something), and it's allegedly always darkest just before dawn (whenever that is... is there dawn in the tunnel?).

Anyway, this is probably going to sound pretty crazy (so what else is new), but, just thinking... a bit more on the photo, and history... when I try to understand my own responses, the pictures that engage my imagination, like the poems that engage my imagination, seem to be the ones that have what I'd want to call a singing quality.

What has kept me coming back to this photo, I guess, was/is the sense of isolation and vulnerability I take away from seeing that small slender figure at the end of the tunnel created by the swath cut in the strange man-made forest -- a feeling one can imagine oneself into, easily enough, while hearing inwardly a kind of silent song of solitude, and the woods, even, or maybe especially, strange hybrid or violated or mutant factory forests like these.

The singing quality the image carries for me is a kind of reiterative unconscious signal, like a breeze rustling somewhere off unseen, deeper in these haunting spooky artificial woods. After a while it occurred to me the song I was hearing in my head when I looked at the photo happened to be a song made by a woman who entered adulthood in a place perhaps not far from that strange mutant forest. The song having to do with youth, experience, learning the world, looking back with rue and wit, even maybe something like wisdom:

Joni Mitchell: Come in From the Cold (from Night Ride Home, 1991)

Now here's the funny thing (he said...): behind, or contained within, that song, I hear another. This funny thing is caused by the thing that happens when the chord changes and the voice track is doubled at the chorus ("All we ever wanted / Was just to come in from the cold"), first occurring at 0:55, and again everytime the chorus recurs.

I'm wildly imagining that Mitchell got that bit from what happens when the chorus occurs (first at 1:13) in this other song:

Cyndi Lauper: Time After Time (1983)

In any case I can't for the life of me hear the one song without hearing the other underneath it, now, nor can I look at the photo without hearing both of them.

O well, I'm not the first to have this problem.

Miles Davis: Time After Time (cover, Live at Montreux, 1988)

Everything But the Girl (Tracey Thorn / Ben Watt): Time After Time (cover, c. 1992)

Goosehouse: Time after Time (cover, 2011)

Vázquez Sounds (Angela, Gustavo and Abelardo Sánchez): Time After Time (cover, 2013)

Curtis Faville said...


I was wondering if you knew anything about Tom Raworth's situation.

I just saw the "Last Note" post from the first of September, on his blog, with dire reports from Val. Kind of a sign-off.

The photo you post reminds me of Northern japan, where I lived during 1985. The Japanese have a strange concept of "nature" and "wild"--which they destroy and deface recklessly, only to replace it with "ordered" artificial versions. They replant their forests in rows--something I've been told they do in Germany too. So you walk these corridors of straight, ranked trunks like hallways.

The poem has a dour mood, appropriate to the season.

I heard Ron Loewinsohn just passed too.

TC said...

Oh, Jeez. Connection intermittent here (more and more, yet one can't argue), I hadn't seen some of these good comments, do forgive my deep deejay wanderings in the woolly interim, and yes, Hazen, too soon, and many thanks, Maureen, and Vassilis, and Curtis, yes, you've just put a finger on the meaning of this pairing, quite well, "objectively" as 'twere, after all my useless ditherings and flounderings -- and about our struggling mutual friends and selves, past, present, impartially accounted for, ghostly, or combinations of the above, may there somehow appear and prevail peace, unfathomably, at last, and until then, I'm sticking with I don't want to know.

It's totally not working.

erin said...

tom, of course you speak to why i took this image in the first place, you understanding how difficult it is for my daughter to be in the world. this is my right hand. the malevolence of the world is illustrated by scale and worse than the looming perhaps is the fact that it looms with indifference, an extra sting to our existentialist place. i am only grateful that i seem to have grown a left hand to reach out to touch what seems cruel but is magnificent as well in its many facets.

but this thing that we are now engaged in, this ruse, this technologically drawing together - this will bring us to our end, our end which has always been coming but which we hasten now. i don't doubt that our discontent is being perfected through technology and our roots and kinship are actively being destroyed.

on the radio the other day a Mary-Ann Kirkby who wrote I An Hutterite was asked if she believed the Hutterites might survive this technological sweep of society. she said she reflected on that a great deal and didn't know. she recounted a conversation she had had with a minister. he said the Hutterites survived 400 years of intense persecution but he was not sure if they would survive the next 100 years of technological developments.


TC said...

Amen to that. One might go even further and say there are days (and nights) when it doesn't seem we will be able to hold out another four seconds.